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June 30, 2002 - July 6, 2002

RE: TBAY: Peter Doesn't Get The Girl -- Sycophants and Evil Overlords


"Get up, Eileen," said Elkins softly. "Stand up. You ask for forgiveness? I do not forgive. I do not forget. Three long months....I want three months' repayment before I forgive you. Cindy here has paid some of her debt already, have you not, Cindy?"

Elkins looked over to Cindy, who continued to sob.

"Er, Avery, old man," George whispered, leaning over to the Indeterminate Character sitting in the chair beside his desk. "Remind me again, will you? Just what precisely is it that Cindy is supposed to have done to Elkins?"

Avery did not answer. He was gripping the armrests of his chair tightly enough to sink his fingers to the first knuckle into the overstuffed leather, and his eyes were squeezed shut. George blinked, then winced.

"Oh," he said. "Oh. Right. Er, Eileen? Elkins?" he called. "Look. This little...vignette of yours? Has it occurred to you that it might not really have been the most sensitive choice? Given that Avery's right here in the—"

"You returned to me, Eileen," Elkins continued, loftily ignoring him. "Not out of loyalty, but out of boredom. You deserve this pain, Eileen. You know that, don't you?"

"Yes, Elkins," moaned Eileen, "please, Elkins...please... I only... I only wish to serve, to...to..."

"To make a start on repaying your debt?"

"Yes." Eileen nodded gratefully. "Yes. I... I brought canon, Elkins. Canon." She shuffled forward, her arms outstretched. A number of small canons tumbled from her shaking hands. Elkins glanced down at them. She raised an eyebrow. She smiled slightly.

"That will do," she said.

****************

On the infamous "hesitation" as defense for the Peter Doesn't Get the Girl Tew Ewwwww Variant, Eileen wrote:

But then one wonders why Voldemort even bothered to ask her to stand aside. Perhaps he thought it would be sadistically fun to hand her over to Peter, but having that documented disdain for women, he decided he didn't care, and just killed her?

Well, let's see.

If we assume, as so many people have done when speculating about the Voldemort's Wand Mystery, that Peter was actually there at Godric's Hollow at the time, then it could have been just a tease, couldn't it? To make Peter believe that she really was going to be spared, just for a moment, before Voldemort casually offed her?

I mean, what evidence has Peter to be so darn suspicious of Voldemort's promises?

Yes. That's really the question, isn't it? To my mind, that's the strongest defense for a scenario in which Peter thought that he was going to be able to secure at least one of the Potters' lives, and Lily seems the strongest candidate by far.

We all know that the devil is the prince of lies, but other than that?

Heh. Well, yes, but then, we all know that it's a really bad idea to throw your lot in with Evil Overlords too, don't we? I mean, that just never works out happily for anyone. Just ask poor Avery. Or ask Snape, for that matter.

But apparently Peter never got that memo, so I assume that he never got the one about Prince of Lies, either.

And, he keeps jumping to the conclusion that Voldemort's going to kill him. A reasonable conclusion perhaps but what has got Peter's mind into "He's trying to kill me and double cross me" mode? The only way he could already have been doubled-crossed is if we involve Lily.

I agree.

Peter isn't an ideologue, to say the least. He's self-serving. So if he had always believed Voldemort to be the sort of Evil Overlord who reneges on his promises and kills his minions the second that they have outlived their usefulness, then it's rather hard to imagine why he ever would have become involved, isn't it? His service to the DEs before the Secret Keeper fiasco seems to have entailed spying on the Potters' circle. After his betrayal, his cover would have been, er, blown. To say the least. Would he have agreed to the plan—or even engineered it, as it does seem likely to me that he volunteered the information that he had been made the Secret Keeper to Voldemort—if he had believed at the time that Voldemort was such a "kill the spare" type when it came to his own followers? I just don't know. I rather think he might have tried to flee instead, or tried to keep the SK switcheroo a secret.

So what happened to change his mind, between his act of betrayal and Voldemort's return? Something must have happened to alter his expectations. I see only two likely possibilities.

One is Quirrell's death. The other is Lily's death.

--------------

On the reminder of the "promise" in the graveyard:

It isn't even bleeding to death that Peter's primarily afraid of. I didn't notice this very much before but...

He caressed it gently, too; and then he raised it and ponted it at Wormtail who was lifted off the ground, and thrown against the headstone where Harry was tied; he fell to the foot of it and lay there crumpled up and crying.

As far as Peter can see, Voldemort is about to kill him, not just leave him to die. He isn't even pleading for the reward, or even for the bleeding to stop. He's pleading that he not be killed.

Ugh. You're right, of course. That's precisely what he thinks. From his perspective, he has just exhausted his usefulness, and now he is to be killed. And probably in an unpleasantly slow and experimental fashion, too, since Voldemort seems to want to play around a bit with his new body and his wand. And so, naturally, he responds as he always does when he thinks that he's about to die: he collapses into helpless weeping. As, frankly, so would I.

Of course, he hasn't really quite outlived his usefulness yet, since Voldemort still needs his Dark Mark to summon the rest of the DEs, but it's clear enough from his reaction to being asked for his arm that Peter hasn't the slightest clue what that's all about.

The reminder of the "promise" is interesting, though, because Voldemort has actually never promised Peter a damned thing. Not "on-screen," at any rate. He doesn't even give him any real assurance that he won't be killed after the resurrection. His actual words ("Wormtail, Wormtail...why would I kill you?") sound far more like an evasion than an assurance; if anything, they suggest that he really is planning on killing the poor wretch. They certainly do not constitute a "promise." And from his awed response later on to the hand reward, I think it fairly clear that he was never promised anything like that, either.

So what is this promise he's nattering on about, eh?

A perfect time to remind Voldemort. "You promised.." "So, you killed Lily and now you're going to kill me?"

The more I think about this, the more eerily compelling I find it.

Elkins then went into a lot of Freudian stuff. Eileen doesn't really get Freudian stuff, but she did find it interesting that Peter cut off his pointer finger. Kind of inconvenient.

Inconvenient on a number of different levels, really. It's not just that it's his pointer finger. It's that it's also the pointer finger of his good hand. Peter is right-handed. His right hand is the one that he instinctively raises against Harry in the graveyard.

Now, there are perfectly sound symbolic and magical reasons for a right-handed man to offer his right hand as a sacrifice in the rebirthing ritual of his Dark Lord. But just to frame Sirius? What on earth was he thinking?

Not only is the pointer finger of ones good hand quite far down on the list of digits that any normal person would ordinarily choose to sacrifice (it's better than a thumb, but that's about it), it also raises some logistical difficulties. It left him forced to use his off-hand to do the actual cutting or wandwork or whatever it was that he did to lop it off in the first place. This is counter-intuitive.

So it's really hard for me not to view that decision in a psychological light. Leaving Freud out of it, it does seem to me that on some level he must have wanted to be maimed, and not only maimed, but maimed in a way that would be inconvenient for him, a way that would serve as a constant reminder to him of what he had done. Otherwise, he just would have gone for a pinky.

Hey, speaking of Pettigrew's self-mutilating tendencies, has anyone but me ever wondered whatever happened to his left ear? At the beginning of PoA, when the woman in the pet shop is looking him over as Scabbers, he is specified not only as missing a toe, but also as having a "tattered left ear."

What do you think? Did those real rats rough him up in the sewers? Or was it just some Weasley manhandling? One of the Twins' little games, perhaps?

"Harry, James wouldn't have wanted me killed...James would have understood, Harry..."

I could see Peter having convinced himself that he did everything he did to protect Lily. Voldemort would sooner or later have made him crack, or found out some other way, so he made a deal that would save Lily. And surely James would understand that. Wouldn't he?

Well, that's certainly one of the all-time classic rationalizations, isn't it? The triage of the traitor? It's as old as time, that one. Or at the very least, as old as warfare.

Again, I find this eerily compelling.

I'm not sure that his evident liking for Weasleys and Ron is relevant, but if you say so....

It's relevant because it suggests that he might have a weakness for red-heads. You know, just like Hastings? ;-)

Hey. With a theory like this one, you take the canon where you can find it. And besides, there's certainly more evidence in canon for Pettigrew having a thing about red-heads than there is for Snape having one. We've never seen a shred of evidence that Snape gets all Weak and Sentimental—or even unusually Bitter and Resentful—when he sees a red-head, have we? Nope. None. None at all. But Pettigrew?

I'm telling you. The guy's just a soft-touch when it comes to red-heads.

Well. In his own murderous sort of way, that is.

Maybe Florence wasn't the future Lestrange after all. Maybe she was one of those mysterious missing Weasley cousins.

But about Florence...

You're right that the hex story should belong to Peter, not Snape, not Sirius, or anyone else. It just doesn't make sense that Dumbledore would bring it up here. I think Peter did take his revenge on Bertha Jorkins. But what for?

"I'll tell you what for!" cries Cindy.

Cindy:

"Bertha told Peter she had seen him kissing Florence, and it was a flat-out lie.

Er, but doesn't that sort of weaken your original canon, Cindy?

I mean, your original "Peter Gets the Girl" canon was so very compelling in the first place in part because it set up such a lovely parallel. It suggested that what the message from Dumbledore's subconscious was trying to tell him was: "This is a direct parallel. History has repeated itself. Once again, Bertha Jorkins has come by knowledge of a secret that somebody very badly wants hidden, and once again, she has been victimized by Peter Pettigrew."

The other way, the parallel isn't nearly so tidy or so convincing.

Not to mention the fact that Dumbledore does ask her why she had to "follow him in the first place," which does rather suggest that she saw something that, er, really did happen.

I mean, don't get me wrong. I do appreciate the fact that you're trying to grant Peter a bit of nobility here, by making his Love For Lily pure and uncorrupted and all that. In fact, I'm really touched. It's...well, it's downright SYCOPHANTSish of you, Cindy! It just plain makes me want to cry.

But...well, look. I just don't know about this new UnTough Cindy we've been seeing around here lately. First you go to George and start snivelling, and now you're tinkering around with a spec to increase its SYCOPHANTS potential? That's...well, it's just plain Wrong, Cindy. You aren't a SYCOPHANT. You're Tough. You're messing with my mind doing this sort of thing, okay? It's really beginning to Freak Me OUT.

I mean, next thing you know, I'm going to become an Evil Overlord.

Not, of course, that that's so much of a stretch, really. Sycophants and Evil Overlords are really just two sides of the same ugly coin.

*****************

"May your loyalty never waver again, Eileen," said Elkins.

"No, Elkins... never, Elkins."

Eileen stood up and turned to take her place on the chaise lounge, staring at her powerful new canon, her face still shining with tears.

"Oh," said Elkins, just as she had turned her back. "And Eileen? One more thing?"

Eileen hesitated, a glimmer of apprehension crossing her face. She turned slowly.

"I...yes, Elkins?" she asked.

"You didn't really think I would fail to notice that you chose to spare yourself the Cruciatus Curse," said Elkins softly. "Did you?"

"Well, I...I..."

"It does cast this...contrition of yours in a rather dim light, don't you think? All of that humility. All of that grovelling. Yet not a touch of genuine penance. Why, Eileen." Elkins smiled thinly. "If I didn't know better, I might even find myself doubting your sincerity."

"Elkins, my devotion to your—"

"Your devotion is nothing more than cowardice. Atonement without penance? Remorse without restitution? You're almost beginning to sound like him." She jerked her head contemptuously towards Fourth Man Avery With Remorse, who buried his face in his hands.

"But Elkins," Eileen objected, spreading her hands helplessly. "I—"

"I am told that you have not renounced the ways of SYCOPHANTS, though to the world you present your bowls of CRAB CUSTARD. You are still ready to take the lead in a spot of Death Eater Anti-Defamation, I believe? Yet you never really atoned, Eileen. Your little Graveyard pastiche was fun, I daresay...but might not your energies have been better directed toward a somewhat stronger adherence to the original canonical material?"

"Elkins, I am constantly thinking of the sensibilities of our audience," said Eileen rapidly. "Had I had any assurance, any conviction at all that actual depictions of torture were not completely out of bounds for the standards of civility of this list, I would have been writhing at your feet immediately, nothing could have prevented me—"

"And yet you were perfectly willing to acknowledge the possibility of such a plot development back in message number 39000?" said Elkins lazily, and Eileen stopped talking abruptly. "Yes, I noticed that, Eileen...You have disappointed me...But still. Still. You are only a sycophant, aren't you? And not a house elf. So I suppose that it might have been a bit much to expect you to be capable of disciplining yourself."

"Yes, thank you, Elkins," Eileen gasped. "You are merciful, thank you..."

"Fortunately, you chose to dress me in these ridiculous robes," Elkins continued, slipping one of her rather pudgy hands into a deep pocket and drawing out a wand. "So I'm willing to do you the favor of helping you to correct this unfortunate little...oversight of yours."

"Elkins," Cindy objected, half-rising from her seat. "What are you DOING?"

"Oh, nothing any less forgivable than all of that Imperius that Captain Tabouli used to dole out below decks on the LOLLIPOPS," said Elkins casually. "Nothing to worry about."

"Elkins," Eileen stammered, backing slowly away, her eyes fixed on the wand in Elkins' hands. "Elkins, listen, please..."

"You can't do that!" Cindy turned to George. "She can't do that, can she?" she said. "George, is this your idea? Is this some kind of sick twisted THERAPY, or something?"

"Therapy?" George shook his head. "This isn't my therapy," he said. "I'm George. I stand for principle over inclination. Reason over emotion. And restraint," he concluded, pursing his lips in disapproval at Elkins' somewhat fevered expression. "Restraint over indulgence. This certainly isn't my therapy. But what can I do about it?" He shrugged irritably. "I'm just a Snapetheory. This sort of thing is really outside my purview. In fact," he said, frowning. "I'm not even entirely sure what I'm doing in this thread in the first place."

"There has got to be some rule against this," muttered Cindy, fishing out her TBAY Rulebook and flipping through the pages. "I'm sure there has to be SOMETHING against this."

"Oh, come now, Cindy," Elkins said coolly, advancing on Eileen. "Where's your sense of intellectual curiosity? Don't you want to settle for once and for all the question of whether she'll actually sound anything like that Second Task Egg? After all, who knows? She just might prove you right about that one after all. And we all know how much you do love being right, Cindy. Besides," she added, with a nasty snigger. "Cruciatus makes you stronger, right So I'm doing her a favor, really, aren't I?"

"Yeah, look," Cindy muttered. "How about we just forget about Cruciatus Makes You Stronger, okay?"

Eileen collided violently with the water cooler in the corner. She staggered, then fell to her knees. "Please," she whimpered. "Elkins, please...please..."

"It is customary to thank people who offer to correct your blunders for you, Eileen," Elkins told her. "Where are your manners?"

"Elkins, please listen to me. Please. Just listen. You've already been through this crisis once already. Don't you remember? In your argument with Cindy over the Egg? You resisted the twin lures of power and vengeance. Remember? You said that you were a pacifist and that—"

"Oh, but that was to make a rhetorical point about Neville, Eileen," said Elkins. "This is to make a different rhetorical point altogether. Now as for myself," she mused, eyeing Eileen contemplatively. "I've always found myself wondering about those Longbottoms. Could the Cruciatus Curse really have accounted for their condition? Debbie thinks not, but I...well, I'm just not so sure. It's not realistic, no, but it does conform to genre convention. I do find myself wondering, though, just how long that might have taken. Avery's never been willing to discuss it with me. I mean, are we talking hours here? Days? What do you think, Eileen?"

Eileen burst into tears.

"Elkins," Cindy said firmly. "You. Are. A. SYCOPHANT. Not an Evil Overlord."

"Oh, indeed," agreed Elkins pleasantly. "Indeed. But you know, the two are hardly polar opposites. They're not incompatible in the least. In fact, they're essentially the same position. Inside every sycophant, there's an Evil Overlord just waiting to come out. Have you ever read Fromme, on the totalitarian personality? The type of person who toadies to his superiors, yet bullies his subordinates? Whose abject professions of loyalty and fanatic devotion to charismatic leaders and ideological doctrines are matched only by their equally extreme, yet seemingly-incompatible tendency towards self-serving hypocrisy and back-stabbing betrayal? The sort of person whose fundamental capacity for inhumane behavior is masked by a somewhat sloppy sentimentalism? One which often presents as a self-professed love of animals?"

She frowned briefly, one hand reaching up to toy absently with her Bleeding Heart-festooned feather boa, then shook her head and continued on:

"They're the same type of person, really, you know, Evil Overlords and their Sycophants. It's a personality characterized by a...well, a very specific type of personal relationship with power. Power over, that is," she specified, looking down at the huddled and weeping Eileen with a faint and dreamy smile. "Power over others," she murmered.

"Elkins," George said quietly. "Are you aware that your nostrils are dilating?"

Elkins blinked. "Are they really?" She thought about this for a moment, then shrugged. "Oh, well, what else can you expect from me, George? I wear my SYCOPHANTS badge pinned to my FEATHERBOAS, for heaven's sake! Surely you must appreciate the significance of that particular combination? Eileen here did try to explain it to Cindy once, sometime back in March, didn't you, Eileen? But I fear that she may have been a bit too...delicate to really get her point across. You see, Eileen," Elkins said, reaching down to force Eileen's head up to face her. "Cindy's not Bent, like we are. She's Tough. Tough people really don't understand Bent all that well, I'm afraid. You really have to spell it out for them."

"I'm not Bent," sobbed Eileen. "I'm not!"

"Oh, don't be ridiculous," snapped Elkins, shoving her away in disgust. "Of course you are. You're a featherboa-wearing SYCOPHANT, aren't you? That's a fundamentally sado-masochistic position. Self-flagellating, even. You did used to torture your dolls, didn't you, Eileen? And I'll bet you identified with them, even while you were doing it. Didn't you."

Eileen shook her head wildly from side to side.

"Liar," said Elkins, with cruel amusement. "I've seen the sort of specs you favor."

"I—"

"Just ask Avery here, if you don't believe me. He knows all about the totalitarian personality. Even Canon!Avery's rather obvious that way, but once you start talking about Fourth Man Avery...well! At times he's been known to go absolutely Over The Top in that direction."

"I've never liked that Over the Top Fourth Man," muttered Cindy darkly, narrowing her eyes at Avery, whose head was now cradled in his arms on George's desk.

"Oh, I think that Avery has quite enough troubles right now without you adding to them," said Elkins. "Especially now that Peter's got that new hand of is. We were talking about sycophants and their Inner Evil Overlords? Just look at Mr. Pettigrew."

"Wormtail?" said George, frowning.

"Mmmmmmm. Back in April sometime, your friend Marina said that she thought that he was likely to get pushed around quite a bit by the other DEs in future canon. I seem to remember her calling him 'eminently bulliable.' I'm not altogether sure of that, though, myself. The thing about sycophants, you know, is that they do have this way of getting nasty, if you're ever fool enough to hand them the good side of the whip. It's that victim-turned-bully phenomenon that Tabouli's always writing about. I found Wormtail's reaction to his silver hand rather suggestive of that possibility, myself. You know the canon I mean, Eileen."

Eileen nodded slowly, sniffling. "The...the twig," she offered, in a trembling voice. "And...and..."

"And 'beautiful.' Yes. He's just been given some freaky magical cyborg appendage, it can crush things into powder, and he's lost in awe, isn't he? He's calling it 'beautiful.' Mm-hmmm. I'd watch my back around that Pettigrew from now on if I were you, Avery," Elkins advised. "If you ask me, he's headed straight for victim-turned-bulliedom. I certainly hope that you weren't in the habit of hexing him in any corridors back in your schooldays. I certainly hope not. For your sake."

Avery let out a sick sort of moan.

"Indeed?" Elkins smiled slightly. "Oh, bad call, Aves. Very bad call. Let's just hope he doesn't remember that, then, shall we? Although I really wouldn't count on that, you know, if I were you. I remember every single person who ever even once hexed me in the corridors at school. Now," she said, levelling her wand at Eileen. "As for you, Eileen. Perhaps one more little reminder why I will not tolerate further disloyalty from you..."

"Elkins," sobbed Eileen. "No...I beg you..."

"Aw, come on, Elkins," Cindy said. "She did call you 'nice,' you know."

"Nice?" Elkins laughed. "Oh, yes. Every bit as nice as the English, I dare say. Every bit as nice as Eileen herself is. Are you feeling a little bit sorry for Eileen right now, Cindy? You needn't be, you know. I assure you, if our positions were reversed, this situation would be playing out in precisely the same way. Don't you remember the relish with which she used to propose bloody ambushes? Or Avery's outing as a DE at the office, with horrified Arthur Weasley slowly backing away from him?"

Elkins shook her head.

"No," she concluded. "Eileen is not really nice. No more than I am, in fact. You had better leave her to me."

************************

—Elkins, who really would rather cut her own right hand off than harm Eileen in any way

 

RE: The Triwizard Portkey


This is quite late, really, but I've had some computer troubles.

Pippin wrote:

I admit that arrival via portkey is somewhat disorienting and that it's not practical for all the DE's to show up at once. However...

The DE's also have an agent on the scene who can create a diversion to cover their arrival. In fact, he already has, by disabling Krum and Fleur. He may have also put a confundus curse on Fudge and Bagman so that they didn't immediately notice what was happening in the maze--the residual effects of this may account somewhat for Fudge's inability to grasp that Voldemort has returned.

Hmmmm. I think that if Crouch had actually confounded Fudge and Bagman, then he would almost certainly have bragged to Harry about that in his "I want you to DIE, Mr. Potter...but first, let me provide some plot exposition for the folks watching at home" scene.

Also, if Crouch had really been that heavily involved in a plan involving use of the Portkey as a means of allowing the DEs to attack Hogwarts, then I would rather expect for him to be a bit more interested in learning from Harry why the plan didn't work. Instead, he seems far more anxious to learn first if Voldemort has really returned, and second, how he then treated the other DEs. He's just panting to hear that Voldemort punished them severely for their disloyalty. He wants to hear that they've been made to suffer. In fact, I really don't get the impression that he would shed too many tears to hear that a good number of them had been killed.

I can't really imagine that he'd be expecting or hoping for such a thing if he knew that the DEs would then be called upon to aid Voldemort in an attack on Hogwarts. They simply wouldn't be in any condition to do so if they'd been punished in quite the manner that Crouch seems to be so desperately hoping to hear about.

He does seem rather undismayed by the fact that Harry escaped, though, doesn't he?

Debbie wrote:

Also, Crouch Jr., after explaining to Dumbledore how he turned the cup into a Portkey, says "My master's plan worked. He is returned to power . . . ." This doesn't make it sound like the plan was to attack Hogwarts.

No. It doesn't to me, either. Or at least, if that was part of the plan, then it doesn't sound to me as if anyone sent Barty a memo to that effect.

I do agree with Debbie, though, that Crouch's relative lack of dismay over the appearance of Alive!Harry does strongly support Pip's idea that Voldemort might have always had the possibility that Harry might escape in mind as a "Plan B."

Pippin wrote:

Dumbledore would have been notified by Snape as soon as possible once the Dark Mark burned, at which point he would certainly evacuate the students to their Houses, especially if he had realized by that time that Harry was missing. So most of the students would have been leaving the stands and the adults would be guarding the students. This is why Harry saw people moving in the stands when he returned.

It's an interesting question, this. Just what was going on when Harry first returned from the graveyard? I've just gone and reread the passage, and it is somewhat ambiguous. The sense of time passing is deliberately vague—it's actually a rather nice bit of writing here, JKR's conveyance of the poor boy's state of shock—but the impression that I receive is that Harry lies there in the grass for a few moments in silence ("waiting...waiting for someone to do something...something to happen...") before the "torrent of sound deafened and confused him" and the stampede begins. I don't get the impression that there was already an evacuation of the stands underway at all.

Certainly if the students were being shepherded away, then they were not being very competently shepherded away. Harry hears girls screaming and sobbing in the crowd thronging around him while he is still lying on the grass, right before Crouch drags him back to the school. It looks like chaos to me. I don't see any signs that anyone is trying to lead the students back to their dormitories or that any adults are standing guard over them.

Pippin:

However, I think the terrorist purpose would be served if Voldemort was at Hogwarts long enough to drop off Harry's body, set off one of those blast spells like the one Peter used to kill all those people at once, laugh his unmistakeable laugh, and portkey out again.

This, however, I can accept as a possibility. It strikes me as perfectly consistent with everything that we've seen of Voldemort so far. He does generally seem to prefer to take care of matters personally, rather than delegating them to his followers while he himself remains hidden safely away. He attacked the Potters in person. He chose to reveal himself at the end of PS/SS. And he tried (at first, at any rate) to convince the DEs in the graveyard not to interfere in his "duel" in the graveyard.

So all right. I will accept the "Voldemort portkeys in with Harry's body, kills a bunch of people, laughs like a fiend, and then vanishes again" plan. I can live quite happily with that.

Rosie suggested the possibility of a "Voldemort portkeys in with Harry alive, kills a bunch of people, laughs like a fiend, and then vanishes again" plan.

Rosie:

If they didn't zap Harry before appearing through the Portkey...who would they have as a very convenient hostage?

Given that Voldemort did cast the Killing Curse at him, I can only imagine this as a variant on the Spying Game's Plan B. According to this interpretation of events, Plan A was "kill Harry with the good old AK," while Plan B was: "And if that doesn't work, then Portkey to Hogwarts with Harry in tow as a hostage."

Sure. That has possibilities.

Debbie, however, objected:

But a more practical objection. If the Portkey was rigged to take Voldemort back out of Hogwarts after dropping off Harry's body (and it would need to be to allow Voldemort to escape), why didn't the person who picked it up after Harry let go of it get transported back to the graveyard?

Hey, for all we know, that's exactly what happened. Do we ever see the Cup again after Harry gets dragged off by Moody? He gets his sack full of Galleons eventually—he tries to give it to the Diggories—but whatever happened to the trophy itself? Unless there's some mention of it that I've missed (which there might well be, as I am not, I fear, at all competent at that LOON stuff), we never see the thing again.

Boy. A nasty shock that must have been for some souvenir-seeker, eh?

Debbie also wrote:

Also, this was a pretty risky plan, even if Crouch Jr. was on patrol at the edge of the maze. If he dropped the Portkey and someone else picked it up, he would be stuck at Hogwarts, not exactly a glorious climax to a triumphant return.

He could have just held onto it, though. Simply letting go of it and then touching it again really wouldn't be all that difficult, I wouldn't think. There's risk involved, but not tremendous risk.

Pippin:

He wouldn't need all the Death Eaters for that. If the blast was aimed at the Judge's Booth, he might very well succeed in killing Fudge, which would be perfectly adequate as far as demoralizing everybody and disrupting the WW.

Debbie:

Kill Fudge? Whether he's Ever So Evil or just Ever So Incompetent, Fudge is one of Voldemort's best allies. Kill him? What could Voldemort be thinking of?

The assassination of even a weak leader is exceptionally demoralizing, and political chaos is even easier to exploit than Cornelius Fudge himself is. A leaderless wizarding world would be exceptionally vulnerable -- even more vulnerable than a wizarding world with a Fudge at its helm.

Also, say what you like about Fudge (certainly everyone else around here does), but he presumably really does have some genuine political skills. He has held the office for quite some time, after all. I imagine that he's got quite a knack for consensus-building and bipartisan compromise and other skills that prove useful in maintaining order during times of peace. That the wizarding world is strongly politically divided is implied in Fudge's exchange with Dumbledore over the dementors:

'Half of us only feel safe in our beds at night because we know the dementors are standing guard at Azkaban!'

'The rest of us sleep less soundly in our beds, Cornelius, knowing that you have put Lord Voldemort's most dangerous supporters in the care of creatures who will join him the instant he asks them!'

They're speaking metaphorically, of course. But still, the fact that even Fudge uses the word "half" is somewhat suggestive to my mind. Fudge is an appeaser, a compromiser. That is both his particular flaw and his particular talent. With him gone, the wizarding world might well find itself at a political impasse which would benefit no one so much as Voldemort and his followers.

Debbie put this entire of speculations into some doubt with this:

Except for one problem: If the Cup was originally set to carry the first person to touch it back to the edge of the maze, why did Crouch Jr. tell Dumbledore later that when he carried the Cup into the maze, he "Turned it into a Portkey." Voldemort uses almost exactly the same phrase ("the cup which my Death Eater had turned into a Portkey") (GoF, pp. 657, 691). If it had been a portkey all along, Crouch would have had to say that he'd fixed the Portkey to go to the graveyard first, right?

Aw, Debbie!

Did you have to?

::sigh::

Yeah, you're right. That does make it all seem rather unlikely. But if we don't imagine that the Triwizard Cup was always a Portkey, then we're left with that old question of how the contestants were supposed to get back out of the maze in the first place. And of how the judges would know for sure which contestant really touched it first. And of...of...well, and besides, it's ever so much more interesting this way, don't you think?

But the detour in the portkey makes so much sense I'm willing to write this off as a FLINT.

That's the spirit!

—Elkins

 

RE: The Magic Quill, Hogwarts' Admission and Squibs


The Catlady wrote:

JKR said in an interview long ago that there is a magic quill that writes down the name of every magic child born in the UK. Once a year, McGonagall looks in the quill's book for all the children that 'are' 11 that 'year' and addresses Hogwarts admission letters to them.

This is yet another of those questions—much like "how many students at Hogwarts?"—on which I tend to disbelieve the author's answer as given in interview because it seems so difficult to reconcile with my reading of the actual canon. I'm not quite sure that I can believe that birth is when the name appears.

Aldrea touched on my reasons why when she wrote:

Hagrid's remark..something like "He's had his name down since he was a baby!"...would that be because of Harry's whole deflection thing agianst Voldie?

That was certainly my reading. Hagrid says this as if it is not at all usual for a child to have had their name down for Hogwarts since birth. I tend to agree with Aldrea's suggestion that a child's name first appears in the book not at birth, but rather at the moment that the child first manifests his or her magical talent.

However, if we want to be able to reconcile JKR's statement as given in interview with this idea, then Aldrea suggested a terrific way to do so:

I think someone said earlier it writes down the name when magical children are "born"... could born be used in a sort of spiritual sense? Like when the Magical Moment, the moment when the child first uses some sort of magic, -that's- when they are "born" as a wizard?

Sure! That works for me.

The Catlady wrote:

I am worried how such a system could deal with Muggle-born magic children who emigrated with their parents to UK after birth but before age 11.

Hmmm. Well, it's a Magical Quill, isn't it? It has a mystic ability to detect magical children. So I'm willing to accept that it might also be able to just know which magical children would be living in Britain at the age of eleven and which would not.

It's a bit creepy, that, admittedly, since it raises some troubling questions of predestination and free will -- but then, so do Trelawney's "true prophecies."

This touches on the question of why families are not notified the instant that their child's name goes down in that book, to save them the apprehension over their child's eventual future. My gut feeling about this is that the stewards of the Quill deliberately eschew such a policy on the very grounds of that thorny predestination/free will question. Had Neville's family already known that he was "magical enough" to go to Hogwarts, for example, would they have spent so much time trying to badger some magic out of him? And if they hadn't done so, then would he have qualified for Hogwarts?

I don't think that the Keepers of the Quill know the answers to those thorny questions any more than any of the rest of us can, and I suspect that this is the reason that McGonagall only ordinarily checks the book for the names of those children that are eleven "that year." Harry Potter was likely an exception, as his eventual magical status would have been a question of particular interest for the wizarding world as a whole. Hagrid therefore knew that his name had been in the book since he was a baby, but he would not have had this type of knowledge about a less famous or portentious child.

David suggested a rather more ugly reason, though, why the staff of Hogwarts might not want to let parents know about their children's magical status.

He wrote:

IOW, most magic reflects the intention of the wizard or witch. This is apparently not the case with birth, in the sense that neither wizards nor Muggles have any way of influencing whether their offspring are magical. (It has occurred to me that the reason Squibs are rare might be infanticide: what do you suppose the Malfoys would do if they had a Squib baby? The Fudges?)

Well, if they could tell from the beginning that a child was a Squib, then I think that many families probably would leave it on a mountainside to die, or (if we were talking about the Malfoys) possibly even use it in some nasty Dark ritual. At the very least, I suspect that many of those "Fine Old Wizarding Families" would put a non-magical child up for Muggle adoption -- and then try to hide the evidence that the child had ever even existed.

But I don't get the impression that most magical children first manifest their talent early enough in life for this to be a feasible policy. Neville admittedly does seem to have been an unusually late bloomer, but Hagrid speaks of Harry's name being down for Hogwarts since infancy as if this is quite unusual as well. My conclusion is therefore that most magical children first manifest their gift later than infancy, but well before the age of eight (which is when Great Uncle Algie finally browbeat some magic out of poor Neville by dropping him out of that window). I'd guess that the norm is for children to do their first bit of magic somewhere around toddlerhood.

JKR has also intimated that people can sometimes show their first signs of magic quite late in life. This interests me very much. Does the wizarding world have any type of formalized "adult education" for extraordinarily late-blooming ex-Squibs? Or are they forced to see to their own training as best they can, relying on sorry excuses like Filch's Kwikspell Correspondence Course if they cannot afford private tutelage? Rather hard luck on them, isn't it?

—Elkins

Posted July 05, 2002 at 6:47 pm
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RE: Hagrid's Reliability and Sirius' House


Kristin (who was right the first time) wrote:

Hagrid tells Harry that "there wasn't a wizard that went bad who wan't in Slytherin." And at this time, Sirius Black had not yet been proven innocent. We know that Hagrid knew about Sirius' alleged crimes and that he was most certainly considered a bad wizard in his eyes, so for him to make this statement he must have known Sirius to be in Slytherin.

Yes, well. Hagrid also says that foreigners cannot be trusted, that Harry must be a magically-powerful wizard for the simple reason that his parents were, and that the Malfoys all have "bad blood." (I find that last comment particularly rich, given what we now know about what Hagrid's got running through his own oversized veins.)

In short, Hagrid is an unthinking bigot. He is partial to sweeping generalizations, and he does not stop to consider their ramifications. I would imagine, for example, that he would be genuinely hurt to be accused of adhering to the pureblood aesthetic of the Malfoys and their ilk, even though that is precisely the sort of thinking that his comments all too often reflect.

Nor does Hagrid take any particular care to make certain that his statements are in the least bit accurate. In truth, the fact that Harry's parents were magically powerful is no assurance that Harry himself will be: Squibs exist, and they can come from the very best families, right?

I think it strongly suggested from the way that Sirius refers to House Slytherin and its members that he was not himself a member of that House.

—Elkins

Posted July 05, 2002 at 7:15 pm
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RE: Hagrid's Bigotry


I wrote:

Yes, well. Hagrid also says that foreigners cannot be trusted, that Harry must be a magically-powerful wizard for the simple reason that his parents were, and that the Malfoys all have "bad blood." (I find that last comment particularly rich, given what we now know about what Hagrid's got running through his own oversized veins.)

Darrin replied:

Wellllllll, the first one is definitely xenophobic.

But as for the second one, he's hardly the only one the believes Harry Potter will be great.

It's not that he believes that Harry Potter will be great that I object to. It's the fact that he chooses to express this belief in terms of genetic inheritance.

And hey, the third one has certainly proven to be true. Lucius is a Death-Eater and Draco is a little punk.

No, it has not been proven to be true. That Lucius and Draco are both rotters does not mean that the Malfoys have "bad blood." "Bad blood" would mean that their nastiness is in some way genetic, heritable. There is absolutely no evidence that this is really the case, and if it were true, it would completely undercut what Dumbledore tells Harry at the end of CoS about the importance of choice.

I find it particularly ironic for Hagrid of all people to suggest such a thing, given that it is precisely people like Hagrid whose victimization the "bad blood" rationale would be used to justify, should DEs like Lucius Malfoy have their way.

Hey, Hagrid has his own prejudices and quirks, but he certainly doesn't adhere to the Malfoys' beliefs. It is Hagrid who directly refutes the whole mudblood garbage.

No, he doesn't adhere to the Malfoy's beliefs. He does, however, slip into precisely the same mode of thinking when he talks about the classes of people that he doesn't like. That he may have perfectly legitimate reasons for not liking certain people is really not the point. That he is prejudiced in his thinking is.

This is a topic very dear to my heart, you know, because it's how I made my very first enemies on this list. ;-)

Back in January, this is what I wrote:

[excerpted from message from HPfGU #33950, January 22]

No, my problem with Hagrid is that his thoughtlessness all too often leads him perilously close to bigotry.

I don't think that he's a bigot in any deep, philosophical sense, no. Far to the contrary, he is one of the most consistent and vocal antagonists to the entire "pure-blood" aesthetic throughout the books.

But.

He's also a bigot himself, and a very particular type of bigot: the thoughtless man whose fondness for sweeping generalizations and snap judgments leads him to make statements that are not only deeply prejudiced, but also frequently Just Plain Not True.

"Not a single witch or wizard who went bad who wasn't in Slytherin," for example. Or that bit about how you can't trust foreigners. Or his comment about the Malfoys having "bad blood" -- which really is rich, you know, given the big-boned skeletons hiding in Hagrid's own family closet. Or, for that matter, his assurance to Harry that he'll surely grow up to be a great wizard, because "with a mum an' dad like yours, what else would yeh be?"

Hagrid is not a believer in the primacy of blood. He really, really isn't. But when he isn't thinking too hard, he just kind of...slips back into that mode of thinking, and starts going on about "bad blood" and Harry's rights of magical inheritance and so forth. Just as he is not a muggle-hater, and yet, and yet, and yet...

"I'd like to see a great Muggle like you stop him."

"...it's your bad luck you grew up in a family o' the biggest Muggles I ever laid eyes on."

"Look at what she had for a sister!"

And so forth.

I like to think that we're supposed to notice this unsavory tendency of Hagrid's, that this is Rowling's way of showing us the power of institutionalized bigotry. Hagrid's a product of his culture, and his culture is not an egalitarian one. He does believe in egalitarianism, very strongly. But when he isn't watching himself, the ugly underside of his own culture slips through the cracks, and he betrays himself.

That's pretty much still my take on Hagrid.

Darrin:

Now, you could argue that Hagrid's xenophobia and skepticism of the Malfoys (thinking Harry will be great is neither bigoted nor unthinking) is on the same level as the vile venom that spews from Draco's mouth about Muggle-born wizards.

No, it's not at all on the same level. I really can't imagine, for example, that Hagrid would ever advocate genocide.

It is the same logic, however, and it's a logic that I consider dangerous. It's a logic that gets used to justify some very nasty things, both in our reality and in the Potterverse.

I can't imagine Hagrid ever advocating genocide, but advocating some other ugly things? Well, who can say? He does insist that the House Elves enjoy bondage as a matter of racial disposition. Maybe he's right about that, and maybe he's wrong. Only time will tell us whether that statement is actually canonically true. But when you view this belief in light of Hagrid's general tendency to believe that "blood will tell," it does start to look a little bit ugly, don't you think?

It's ugly in precisely the same way that Harry's Aunt Marge nattering on about Harry himself having "bad blood" is ugly. What makes it ugly isn't that Marge happened to be wrong about what the Potters were really like. Even if the Potters really had been criminals and drunkards, the assumption that their son must therefore be intrinsically worthless would still be completely vile.

I wrote:

Nor does Hagrid take any particular care to make certain that his statements are in the least bit accurate. In truth, the fact that Harry's parents were magically powerful is no assurance that Harry himself will be: Squibs exist, and they can come from the very best families, right?

Darrin wrote:

Given that Harry, as a baby, deflected a killing curse from the most powerful evil wizard of modern times would lead MOST of the Wizard community to believe Harry was powerful, no? Dumbledore knows the truth, that Lily's charm did the deflecting, but I don't see this as being common knowledge. So again, Hagrid is HARDLY the only one who thinks Harry is powerful.

Again, I think that you're missing my point here. The point isn't that Hagrid believes Harry to be powerful. Everybody believes that Harry is powerful. That Harry Potter defeated Voldemort at the age of one is common knowledge in the wizarding world. That's not what I'm talking about.

What I'm talking about is Hagrid's tendency to view things in terms of the primacy of blood. "With a mum an' dad like yours, what else would yeh be?"

And within a few minutes of meeting Harry, Hagrid learns that Harry has shown magical ability, in the form of things "Harry couldn't quite explain" which seems to rule out Squib-ness.

So, knowing that Harry ISN'T a Squib, it's hardly the greatest leap to figure that given his parentage, Harry will be pretty good.

Why?

Both Hermione and Justin Finch-Fletchley are Muggle-born, aren't they? Neither of their parents are magical. Yet I think it clear that Hermione is more magically talented than Justin is.

I don't see why you would assume that the child of two magically-powerful people is likely to be one of two things: either magically strong, or a Squib. Children of Muggles can fall anywhere along the spectrum of magical talent, so why would the children of wizards be any different?

[We agree, at least, that Sirius was in House Gryffindor -- or at least not in House Slytherin]

Agreed. I think what Hagrid said is either a FLINT, an exaggeration, or a desire to shield Harry from the knowledge of his godfather going bad and betraying his folks.

But I disagree that it's based on Hagrid being a bigot.

I think that it's a bit of exaggeration, and a bit of prejudice. Hagrid does, after all, have some very personal reasons to dislike House Slytherin. Even aside from the fact that so many of its members supported Voldemort during the last war, one of them also was the one to get him expelled from Hogwarts.

As for shielding Harry from the knowledge of his godfather, I certainly accept that Hagrid never mentioned Sirius to Harry for just this reason.

But I honestly can't believe that Hagrid is thoughtful enough to have deliberately altered his phrasing from "There's only been one wizard who ever went bad who wasn't in Slytherin" to "There's not a single witch or wizard who went bad who wasn't in Slytherin" just to forestall Harry asking who the exception was. That's just not Hagrid. He's not that kind of strategic thinker. He blurts things. Constantly. That's just what he does.

Also, I don't believe for an instant that Sirius (or, rather, Pettigrew) was really the only non-Slytherin ever to go bad. Not only doesn't that seem at all plausible, it also strikes me as completely inconsistent with the descriptions that both Hagrid and Sirius give of what life was like for the wizarding world during the days of Voldemort's first rise. People just didn't know who they could trust, right? Hardly likely, if members of House Slytherin had really comprised Voldemort's only supporters.

—Elkins

Posted July 05, 2002 at 9:38 pm
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